What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 16 Jan 2013, 5:37pm

JBL Cinema SB200

Tested at £200
80100
4

A very good way to boost your TV sound, complete with Bluetooth streaming

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For

  • Loud, explosive sound
  • Good balance
  • Good energy
  • Direct dialogue

Against

  • Could do with more precision and purity
  • Limited connectivity

We reviewed the JBL Cinema SB200 a year ago, and it impressed enough for us to award it a good four-star rating. 

A year is a long time in consumer electronics, though – and now that it’s had a £50 price drop we thought we’d see how it fares against more recent competition. As it turns out, it does rather well.

MORE: JBL Cinema SB400 review

Sound quality

JBL Cinema SB200

The sound it produces isn’t the best at this price, but it’s still an admirable performance.

What is immediately apparent is the sheer size of the sound. It’s effortlessly big – you certainly won’t need to worry about filling the room with sound effects.

You’ll have to give the unit a good night or two of running-in to rein in the treble a little, and to improve the level of organisation. 

Even with a good few hours under its belt, however, the sound could be a touch cleaner.

This slight flaw, though, is offset by the soundbar’s enthusiasm and competence. The timing is good, the dynamic range is wide, and there’s a nice sense of cohesion. What you get, then, is a lively sound with plenty of energy. 

JBL Cinema SB200

Tonally, it’s a balanced performance. Dialogue is solid and direct. The low end is deep – just on the right side of boomy – and JBL gets away with not going for an external subwoofer.

For the tinkerer, there are options. ‘Bass Boost’ mode does as the name suggests, but a little too heavy-handedly.

‘Display Surround’ is JBL’s virtual surround effort. It opens the soundstage well enough, but this makes the midrange and dialogue feel somewhat isolated. 

Time to talk aesthetics – and this soundbar is chunky. That’s usually the case when manufacturers go for ‘built-in subwoofers’.

The size means positioning may be an issue – ours blocked the infrared receiver on the telly we chose for the day. We settled on putting it on the shelf under our TV, but wall-mounting is also an option. 

Design

JBL Cinema SB200

Build quality is good. The body is mostly hard plastic, with a cloth grille at the front protecting the drivers. There are two 25mm dome tweeters and two 9cm drivers with dual ports.

It’s a streamlined offering when it comes to connections. You get one digital optical and one 3.5mm analogue input. There’s no HDMI socket, and the only other connection is Bluetooth.

This soundbar is clearly not intended for use as a multifunctional audio hub, unlike, say, the Philips HTL5120.

JBL Cinema SB200

Control is easy enough. The top of the bar has big, clicky buttons that glow when pressed, which is a nice touch. The remote control is a nicely styled but puny card-type unit.

Thankfully the SB200 can learn the volume and mute commands from your regular TV remote.

Verdict

The JBL Cinema SB200 is a very good soundbar. Now that it’s more affordable than before, we’re tempted to give it that fifth star.

But we have to consider rivals, and similar money buys you better sound with greater connectivity – and a proper remote control.

Therefore, this JBL retains its strong four-star rating.

Review updated on the 20.02.14

MORE: Best soundbars to buy in 2014

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